General Raymond T. Odierno
Chief of Staff of the Army
Silver Star Medal Presentation to SGT Laughery
May 1, 2012

General Odierno: It is great to see you all here on this beautiful day. I want to thank everyone for being here. As you all know, today we are here to recognize Joshua Laughery for his demonstrated courage and leadership when confronted by a determined enemy. There are Soldiers, your brothers in arms, alive here because of your heroic acts of valor. Today we pay tribute to your incredible bravery.

We are also honored to have SGT Laughery's family here with us, SGT Laughery's lovely wife Ashley, his two beautiful daughters, Malayna and Jordan. It is so great that you both could be here. What a great Army family. Let's give them a round of applause. (Applause). I know that they have sacrificed a lot. I know your husband has had three years of deployments. They have worked through those together with strong family ties and bonds, and they are great representatives of our Army family. A special welcome to SGT Laughery's family who drove here from Houston, Texas where I am told all but one of his uncles live. SGT Laughery's mother, Helayne Abramson is here. Thank you Ma'am for being here. SGT Laughery's father and stepmother, Christopher and Sherry Laughery are here. I met two uncles and two aunts as well as cousins and others. I just thank you so much for taking the time to be here. I think it is important that you are here to recognize the wonderful, wonderful work and bravery of SGT Laughery. And Devil Company standing out there in formation, you look terrific as the true professionals that you are. Welcome to all former Devil Company Soldiers in the audience that came today to include former Battalion Commander LTC Tom Rickard, and the current Battalion Commander LTC Cunningham. I appreciate your leadership. Ken Dahl, DCG of 10th Mountain, thanks for being here. General K.K. Chinn and CSM Knowles, thank you so much for being here as well.

Being able to attend events like this make my job as Chief of Staff of the Army so rewarding. It is inspirational to me. It is motivating. It is why I have served in the Army for 36 years. I get to hang around with great young men like SGT Laughery. And I have a chance to stand side by side with men like SGT Laughery, who believes in what we all believe in, our Profession of Arms. He believes in taking care of his fellow Soldiers.

As I have said many times, war is a very personal thing. It is about the person on your right or left. It is about the person in front or behind you. It is about that inherent trust that you have in each other, that you know if you wear this uniform, there will always be somebody there for you. And you are there for each other all the way, and will never leave a fallen comrade. SGT Laughery epitomizes that. He was willing to risk his life for his fellow comrades in order to accomplish the mission, in order to make just a little difference on the battlefield each day. My guess is if asked, he'd tell you that he didn't do anything that anybody else wouldn't do in his Platoon or Squad. I know we all say that, but that is not always true. What our Army is about are young people willing to step up. When a situation called for that, SGT Laughery stepped up. He stepped up when we needed him. He stepped up under fire, during chaos, during incredibly difficult times. That takes courage. That takes leadership. That takes a special something inside of someone that none of us know we have until you are actually involved in a situation like that. So I am incredibly proud to be here today.

Cobra Platoon, Devil Company defied many odds. Former Company Commander CPT Jim Gallagher advised that they were one of the most combat experienced Infantry Platoons in the Battalion, routinely called upon for the difficult missions as the tip of the spear. They routinely executed both Counter-IED and Infantry Weapons platoon missions and were the best at what they did.

On September 12, 2011, when the Platoon mission came down to conduct a battle damage assessment of Mashin Kala village in Wardak Province, a known enemy stronghold, they were also in their last month of their deployment. In this heavily contested area, the Platoon was conducting a patrol to the site. Seven of them dismounted when they came under concentrated enemy fire. The Platoon fought back and tracked down the remaining insurgents. The firefight was intense with smoke, grenades and gunfire. Chaos only those who have been involved with it can understand. But every effort was deployed by these Soldiers to come together, believe in their training, believe in each other, and fire back.

At one point, an insurgent had attacked the Platoon Sergeant, SFC Maples, who had wrestled him to the ground when the insurgent dropped a grenade. When the smoke cleared, SGT Laughery quickly did an assessment and realized that most of his Platoon leadership was injured -- Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Section Sergeant, Senior Team Leader and Medic. Remembering that "knowing is half the battle," SGT Laughery assumed control of the situation and took charge. SFC Maples commented that to him, "it was very moving watching this young Corporal who went from being a senior gunner to a Platoon Sergeant and a Platoon Leader in an instant, executing his job flawlessly."

SGT Laughery immediately called Devil Base with the situation report, and requested a Quick Reaction Force for backup. Braving enemy fire, he chased down an insurgent into the basement cellar complex, fighting close quarters at less than three feet before killing him. In the fight for his life and that of his brothers in arms, SGT Laughery ran back outside and organized a casualty control point, directing and assisting Soldiers to load up the wounded to shuttle back to their base. But he went back down a second time into the dark cellar, on his own, killing off the remaining enemy. The Platoon later found out that two of the insurgents they killed had been responsible for an RPG attack earlier in their deployment, which had killed one of their own from Devil Company. And even SFC Maples somberly noted, "In retrospect, it was a good day. All the bad guys were killed, and we all lived."

It was in that moment of time; when the split decision to "lead or wait to be led" was upon him, SGT Laughery didn't even hesitate. There is little more that we can expect from our Soldiers and Leaders today, especially in combat, than what he demonstrated on that day. That is what the Army Profession is founded upon, our Profession of Arms, which bears a storied lineage of distinguished men and women who have put their lives on the line in answering the call of duty.

Today, SGT Laughery, you join this line of heroes. The Silver Star you now wear is a badge of honor, the third highest combat military decoration awarded for valor in the face of the enemy. In the past ten years of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are only 650 Soldiers, out of over several million in the Army, who have deployed and been awarded this prestigious badge of courage. I have heard it said that the courage of a Soldier is heightened by his knowledge of his profession. I think your Platoon had it right when you picked your motto, that "knowing is half the battle." Your demonstrated knowledge of our Army profession, our Profession of Arms, allowed you to save lives, including your own, that day. Your Silver Star is a testament to your uncommon valor. It is also a reflection on your parents who raised you, your unit that trained you, and your wife and family who love you. Under your leadership, you and the men on your left and right won the battle and defeated the enemy. They trusted you with their lives just as you trusted them with yours. God Bless all of you for your selfless service, your courage, and your bravery.

As I leave here today, I just remind everyone that the strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families, and that is what makes us Army Strong. Thank you very much for allowing me to be here today. Thank you.

End of Remarks.

Page last updated Wed May 2nd, 2012 at 16:48